Cheonggyecheon is a river in Seoul, South Korea, spanning a total length of 10.84 kilometers and covering a watershed area of 59.83 square kilometers. It serves as the convergence point for all the water within Seoul, flowing eastward before merging with Jungnangcheon near the Salgoji Bridge outside of Wangsimni. From there, it changes course and flows westward, eventually emptying into the Han River.
Cheonggyecheon holds significant symbolism in Seoul’s urban development history, starting from the Gwanghwamun area. It originated as a natural stream during the pre-modern era, underwent various stream projects, and underwent straightening and restoration efforts. During the construction of the Cheonggye Elevated Highway, it disappeared, only to be later restored. The current Cheonggyecheon has been reborn as a mix of natural and artificial streams and officially opened on October 1, 2005.
“The 2003 Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project”
The Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, led by Mayor Lee Myung-bak, commenced on July 1, 2003, and was completed on January 1, 2005. In the 1990s, safety concerns arose regarding the aging Cheonggye Elevated Highway, which led to discussions about the restoration of Cheonggyecheon, ultimately evolving into a symposium.
In 2002, mayoral candidate Lee Myung-bak pledged to restore Cheonggyecheon, and after being elected as the 32nd Mayor of Seoul, invested 380 billion won to begin the demolition of the elevated highway. This led to the completion of the current Cheonggyecheon on September 30, 2005.
“Controversies Surrounding the Cheonggyecheon Restoration”
The Cheonggyecheon restoration project was not without its controversies. It sparked debates on historical restoration, river ecology, transportation, and maintenance costs.
The project proceeded with demolishing the existing roads to meet the deadline, disregarding the numerous artifacts from the Joseon Dynasty era excavated during construction. This led to transportation concerns.
Furthermore, the restored Cheonggyecheon now requires ongoing water management, as it was transformed into an artificial stream, incurring higher maintenance costs.
While it has evolved into a more aesthetically pleasing space compared to its past, there remains a sense of regret regarding these aspects. It raises the question of whether a focus on historical restoration and a nature-friendly approach would have been a better choice.
Additionally, some find similarities between post-restoration Cheonggyecheon and Dotonbori, a prominent tourist area in Osaka, Japan, which could be attributed to Mayor Lee Myung-bak’s extended stay in Osaka.
Personally, since Cheonggyecheon is a place I frequently walk by, I didn’t particularly aim for photography. However, given its familiarity, I thought it would be a good idea to capture some night view photos.